We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more Italian Renaissance Learning Resources - The National Gallery of Art

Italian Renaissance Learning Resources

In collaboration with the National Gallery of Art


(b Kolophon, Ionia; fl late 4th century BC–early 3rd century BC; d ?Kos).

Greek painter. . . . According to Pliny, Apelles flourished in the 112th Olympiad (332BC), and his association with Philip II of Macedon implies that his career began before 336 BC. His work for Ptolemy I of Egypt suggests that it lasted until after 304 BC, when Ptolemy declared himself king. No painting by Apelles survives, however, and his works are known only from literary sources.

Apelles studied painting first under Ephoros of Ephesos, then under Pamphilos of Sikyon (Suidas). According to Plutarch (Aratos xiii), however, he was already much admired before he went to Sikyon and enrolled at the school simply to share in its reputation. . . . Apelles’ fame was later based primarily on his portraits, especially of Philip II and Alexander the Great. Several sources, including Pliny (XXXV.xxxvi.85), state that Alexander allowed no artist but Apelles to paint him, and two anecdotes apparently confirm his privileged status.

Ancient critics regarded the most notable quality of Apelles’ work as its grace (Gr. charis, Lat.venustas), in the sense both of outward beauty and of an inner spiritual radiance.

Susan B. Matheson